Judging by how mean the slip-on sounds, the full system must be ridiculous.
The stock 954 weighed in at 445 pounds wet. After lightweight wheels, rotors, sprockets and exhaust, it dropped 21 big ones to a lean 424 pounds.
Hidden behind the fairing is a radar detector that’s paired to a laser jammer fixed inside the headlight housing. This is what we like to call a fair warning mod.
What will $15,000 get you in today’s market? For Honda fans, a brand-new CBR1000RR sans ABS hooked up with a trifecta of must-have aftermarket add-ons (slip-on exhaust, windscreen and undertail kit). Or alternately a 10-year-old CBR954RR with 2,200 miles purchased for $6,500 that went from mint to hooked-up with $8,500 in parts and tuning. Buy used and go for broke on a long list of mods, or shell out a premium entry fee for a new-schooler? That is the question. With both bikes sitting in the SSB stable, we wondered how the two Hondas would stack up against each other. Would we fully appreciate 10 years’ of technology and refinement in the new bike? Or would the modifications made to our Project 954 bike be enough to overcome its dated platform?
Age of Power
Horsepower increases as the years progress. Nothing reinforces this better than the 124 HP @ 64.7 LB-FT of torque our stock 954 made on a Superflow dyno. Compare that with the 2012 CBR1000RR, which initially made 148 HP @ 75.4 LB-FT. But stock numbers are only a baseline to measure the impact of aftermarket enhancements.
To keep both bikes close in price, motor mods on the 2012 went no further than a Yosh carbon fiber R-77 slip-on pipe— ground-shaking idle and roaring throttle note with the baffle removed made this small upgrade a big win over stock. The 954, on the other hand, was hit with the book. A full Dynojet electronics package including Quick Shifter and Hindle Evolution full system with a stainless-steel front section and titanium muffler made a massive difference. Add to that a higher flowing Pipercross air filter, removal of the airbox flapper valve, lighter forged aluminum Carrozzeria V-Track wheels and a dyno tune, and the old-schooler got with it. The modified CBR1000RR now rocketed down the freeway with 152.8 HP @ 79.7 LB-FT. The 954 snapped into a twitchy-on-the-throttle and beautifully raw ride that output 131.9 HP @ 67.1 LB-FT.
On the interstate, the 20+ HP difference equated to a 439-lb. (fully fueled) modern Fireblade that pulled much harder and smoother than the 424-lb. 954 at speed. But the 10-year-old ruled the city in hooligan fun and off-the-light acceleration. The front is allergic to pavement after twisting the grip off a green, thanks to lighter wheels and aluminum Vortex CAT5 sprockets, up one in the rear, lassoed by an RK 530 chain. When the front gets light, a Scotts Performance damper keeps bar wag in check. In comparison, we didn’t battle any tank slappers on the 2012, an indicator that the electronic OEM stabilizer did its job.
Both bikes provide more than enough power to dart through tight commuter spots. Under WOT, the CBR1000RR rules above 80 MPH but the 954 feels more explosive within the confines of everyday speed limits. The 954 makes killing city blocks easy, but the later model lures you to break triple digits after rolling up an on-ramp.
Slowing a fast bike on the street is important for obvious reasons. To level the playing field, the 954 was decked out in speed scrubbing add-ons. Galfer Waves front and rear, stainless steel lines, sintered pads and an Accossato front brake master cylinder allowed us to brake out of a traffic accident quick. The new Honda’s binders were left untouched. They already come on comfortably and grab hard under a firm lever squeeze. In contrast, the new 954 brake setup bites like its throttle response in first gear: hard and immediate. It requires a simple one-finger pull when slowing in traffic. Come on too hard and the bike whips forward and throws your crotch into the tank. Controlling the 954’s fine balance between smooth and keister puckering keeps life exciting for some and makes others appreciate the more mundane higher performance of today’s literbikes.
Personal preference aside, hard numbers don’t lie so a 100-foot braking box was created on a closed street section. One rider took five runs on each bike, accelerating to 60 MPH before ham-fisting the right lever (and rear brake) to simulate a panic braking situation. The worst and best runs were dropped and the remaining three were averaged. From 60 MPH to parked, the 954RR locked-up and skid far past the average CBR1000RR stopping distance each time, ending with an average of 97.6 feet compared with the average 72.3 feet it took to haul down the new-model Honda. Even accounting for point-of-braking error, the 2012 clearly scrubbed speed faster and in a more controlled manner.
Across the board modern literbikes look sharper, are more compact and place the rider in a bent over, “go for the lap record” seating position. Generations past, rearsets were set lower and spines received more respect with upright riding positions. This is a distinct advantage of the 954 during daily commutes. But the 2012 is very comfortable from stock seat padding to ergos and tank shape.
From a cornering standpoint, the 954 feels heavier than the streamlined 2012 when leaned over in a sweeper or rolling slow around parking lot obstacles. This is where the 954 shows its age. It is agile but not like the CBR1000RR. Little things like how the new tank molds even taller riders into the bike and advancements like the Showa Big Piston Fork, twin-spar aluminum frame and Unit-Pro Link rear suspension can’t be matched by older technology. The 2012’s taller Zero Gravity Corsa windscreen added optimal freeway wind protection too. Out back, a Yoshimura undertail paired with smoked Competition Werkes signals made the 954’s angled backside look overweight.
Black Carrozzeria V-Track wheels gave the 954 a shot of modern medicine with a look similar to Honda’s new 12-spoke cast-aluminum wheels. New age tech continues with a covertly mounted TPX laser and radar detection system, a feature far from standard on any near stocker. The XS Boost fan switch helped when stuck in gridlock on a hot day. Custom Saddlemen seats make firmly locking into the higher seating position comfortable over long hauls. Rizoma Limit Sport Mirrors and Gregg’s Customs flushmount signals add high-dollar class absent from new models as well.
Final Rider Impressions
There is no clear winner in this sort of test; it’s all personal preference. Some want the smooth refinement of a current model and others take pleasure taming an older but looser ride. Each of these Hondas is exciting in its own right. And where the 954 won in the city, the new-schooler reigns on the freeway and in the design department. Emptying your savings on a fresh bike, or starting with an older platform and feeding it a steady supply of parts is an individual choice. That said, each SSB staffer had a favorite. Here are the results.
Sean Russell: I’m biased by high school nostalgia on my choice. The 954 is ageless. It could easily pass as a new model if hawked to the uninformed. The 1000RR looks sleek and does everything well, plus it hauls the mail over 90 MPH and has one of the best literbike tank shapes available. It bogged ever so briefly coming off a stop but that’s easily fixed with a tune. What it lacked was the city street fun factor. The 1000 is loads of entertainment going fast, but the 954 in its modded state makes the simple task of getting across town exciting. The brakes chomp down hard and fast, the front wheel doesn’t like to stay down, the throttle response snaps your neck back and it’s a sleeper. The 954 isn’t as fast or agile as the 2012, but it pays dividends in the hooligan sector and that is enough for me.
Brian Hatano: By virtue of its better balance and weight distribution, smoother braking and power curve, I feel more at home on the CBR1000RR. Although the 954 is a jackrabbit out of the hole, in stock trim the 1000RR still has superior and more usable power. But I’d rather own the CBR954RR for reasons unrelated to numbers and tests. There is a cool factor in anything old school. And for a 10-year-old bike to still exist today in this condition with low miles is a rarity that nothing new can outdo.
Off-the-light acceleration is important, so we decided to test launch speed on the track. Drag jockey Gaige Herrera was given three back-to-back runs on each bike at Irwindale Speedway’s 1/8-mile drag strip. Surprisingly, the 2012 was harder to keep down and the 954 was faster over the first 60 feet. Our bone-stock 954 ran a best 1/8-mile time of 7.044 @ 108.5 MPH with Herrera at the helm. While the modding made the 954 more powerful and lighter, the bike also became harder to keep grounded, which resulted in nearly identical ETs. The 2012 didn’t pull as hard down low.
**954RR Best Time
** 60-Foot: 1.79 seconds
330-Foot: 4.7 seconds
ET: 6.98 @ 108.4 MPH
**CBR1000RR Best Time
** 60-Foot: 1.82 seconds
330-Foot: 4.65 seconds
ET: 6.85 @ 111.1 MPH
The 954 is a long-time stunter favorite, while the 2012 CBR1000RR is hardly ever the weapon of choice for freestyle action. Stunt rider Troy Hoff weighed in on how each bike felt after giving ‘em hell.
“The 954 handled well and had a lot of power. It clutched up very quick and powered up rather easily because of the power and wheels. The 954 also has a great balance point at 12 o’clock and was very easy to put into a coaster. The aftermarket brake setup bites abruptly hard, which made managing a smooth stoppie more difficult on the 954.
The 1000 seemed to bog a bit at the bottom end, but it would clutch right up and feel very stable in a wheelie. Endos on the 1000 with its stock damper felt better than the 954, partly due to better weight placement. I’d rather own the 2012 because it fit my body type better. I felt nice and snug on the 1000, while the 954 felt taller and left my body feeling open and more stretched out.”
2012 Honda CBR1000RR
Front End: N/A
Rear End: N/A
Motor: Yoshimura R-77 slip-on exhaust
Accessories: Zero Gravity Corsa windscreen, Yoshimura undertail kit, Competition Werkes rear signals
2002 Honda CBR954RR
Front End: Galfer Wave rotor, pads and stainless steel brake lines, Accossato brake master cylinder and levers, Carrozzeria V-Track wheel, Avon 3D Ultra Sport tire
Rear End: Galfer Wave rotor, pads and stainless steel brake line, Carrozzeria V-Track wheel, Avon 3D Ultra Sport tire
Motor: Hindle Evolution full exhaust system, Dynojet Power Commander PCIII, Ignition Module, Pressure Shift Sensor with dyno tune, Pipercross air filter, Vortex sprockets, RK Excel 530 chain
Accessories: Scotts Performance steering stabilizer, Gregg’s Customs flushmount signals, Hotbodies Racing undertail, Immortal Graphix tank pad, Healtech Electronics Speedohealer, Adaptiv Technologies TPX laser jammer and radar detector system, Saddlemen custom seats, Rizoma Limit Sport mirrors, XS Boost Performance fan override switch, swingarm spools, F. Fabbri windscreen.